Facts About Tetanus and the Shot

When was the last time you had a tetanus vaccine booster? Many people aren’t entirely informed on what a tetanus shot does for the body; however, they may know they need to get this shot if they step on a rusty nail.  As an adult, the tetanus-diphtheria (td) vaccine is recommended for adults every 10 years or after a presumed exposure from a deep wound.  The CDC and FDA deem this shot safe and necessary.

Tetanus shots have been routine since the 1920s, as they are believed to be 100 percent effective in preventing a tetanus infection. What is tetanus? Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is a disease caused by toxins released if infected with the bacteria Clostridium tetani.  When the bacteria infect the body, a person can experience dysfunction of nerves and resultant muscle spasms in the abdomen, neck stomach, and extremities. A case of tetanus can either be localized (in one spot) in the body or felt all over. True to its name, lockjaw, muscle spasms in the face and neck can cause a person to not be able to open his or her mouth. This is a serious disease; around 30 percent of those who get the tetanus bacteria end up dying from the disease.

Where does the Clostridium bacteria come from? It can be found in dust, dirt and manure. This bacteria can enter a person’s body through a cut or puncture wound, but animal bites, burns, and non-sterile needles can lead to a tetanus infection, as well. Tetanus cannot be passed on from person to person.

A person will experience tetanus symptoms anywhere from three days to weeks after the infection starts. On average, a person will notice symptoms around 8 days after exposure. Early symptoms and signs of tetanus include stiff muscles, difficulty swallowing, spasms, rigid abdominal muscles, sweating, and fever.

The vaccine is the only way to protect oneself from tetanus. Thankfully, due to immunizations, this is a rare disease in the United States.

The vaccine Is known to be safe, and very few people experience any side effects. If side effects do occur, they include: soreness, swelling, and redness around the injection site, and a mild fever. It is believed the potential risks that come with tetanus are far greater and worse than the risks that come from the vaccine. You cannot get tetanus from the vaccine.

If a person gets this disease, he or she will likely have to spend several weeks in the hospital in intensive care, and most likely, will be on a ventilator. Around 50 or less cases occur in the United States each year.

If you cut, scrape, or burn yourself or use a non-sterile needle, you should clean the area, and seek out medical attention. Upon meeting the doctor and reviewing your vaccination history, the doctor will determine if you need a vaccine and tetanus immune globulin to prevent tetanus from entering your nervous system.

For more information on this topic, the best person to talk to is a primary care doctor. Dr. Kordonowy of Internal Medicine, Lipid & Wellness of Fort Myers is a concierge, patient membership physician, and provides direct primary care services. He will be able to administer the tetanus vaccine at his office To book an appointment, click here or call 239-362-3005, ext. 200.

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Article By Fort Myers Concierge Doctor, Dr. Raymond Kordonowy

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